The Editors Guild of India has condemned filing of police complaints against the news website The Wire and several journalists for their tweets on the assault of a Muslim man in Uttar Pradesh’s Ghaziabad.
“…In the video that was posted by those charged, the man is seen alleging that he was beaten up by some people and was forced him to chant ‘Jai Shree Ram’. Several media organisations and journalists, besides the ones charged by the police, posted this video on their social media feeds,” the Editors Guild said in a statement today.
“Subsequently, there was an alternate version offered by the UP Police claiming the assault was borne out of a dispute regarding a talisman the elderly man had sold to some people, which was also reported by these media organisations and journalists,” the Editors Guild said, highlighting the news organisations and journalists only carried what the man claimed and later also took the police’s version, as is the case with any other report.
The Editors Guild said it is “deeply concerned by the UP Police’s track record of filing FIRs against journalists to deter them from reporting serious incidents without fear of reprisals.”
“It is the duty of journalists to report on the basis of sources and in case facts become contested later on, to report the emerging versions and facets. For police to wade into such professional calls by journalists and attribute criminality to their actions is destructive freedom of speech, which is constitutionally protected and is entrenched feature of the rule of law,” the Editors Guild said.
“…The Guild condemns this wanton misuse of laws to criminalise reporting and dissent to harass independent media and demands that the FIRs be withdrawn immediately,” it said.
A lawyer approached Delhi Police with his complaint on Wednesday against actor Swara Bhasker, journalist Arfa Khanum and a person named Asif Khan alleged that through their Twitter handles, they “got inspired from the incident and started a propaganda to spread hate amongst citizens”.
“Manish Maheshwari, the head of Twitter in India, did not take any action to remove these false tweets knowing the fact that the incident did not have any kind of communal angle”, the complaint says.
The Editors Guild of India condemns the filing of First Information Reports (FIRs) by the Uttar Pradesh Police against The Wire and several other journalists, for their tweets on an assault on an elderly Muslim man in Ghaziabad on June 5th. pic.twitter.com/u17KMkYb42
— Editors Guild of India (@IndEditorsGuild) June 17, 2021
In the case filed by Uttar Pradesh Police, Twitter has been accused of not removing “misleading” content linked to the incident. The charges the social media giant faces include “intent to a riot, promoting enmity and criminal conspiracy”.